There’s plenty of myths surrounding canned goods, and so to help debunk them The Canned Food Information Council declared February to be National Canned Food Month. That’s right, a whole month dedicated to canned food, your kitchen life just got a whole lot easier. This modern form of food preservation began in the early 1800s and remains a popular way to donate extra food to those in need, save money in your own household, and keep cooking time down with pre-made favorites.
History of Canned Food Month
In the dark cold of February, when few fruits and vegetables grow, we’re so grateful for Canned Food Month. Before canning, the four main ways of food preservation were salting, drying, sugaring, and smoking – but Napoleon wanted to develop a better way. In response to a contest laid out by the French government in 1809, French inventor Nicholas Appert developed the first process that involved hermetically sealing and heat-sterilizing food storage containers. Rudimentary canning was born.
Appert wrote a book on his invention that inspired many and set the canning ball rolling. Soon thereafter, an English businessman adopted the invention idea and began to create a business based on tin-canned foods (as opposed to the glass cans that Appert used). The businessman was named Peter Durand, and in 1810 he patented the use of tin cans. By 1820, his crafty food-storage creation fed the Royal Navy in massive proportions.
Canneries began to experiment with specific different materials and methods for packaging their food. The cans were originally composed of tin-plated iron, but over time they were shifted to be steel with tinplate, and eventually aluminum. Aluminum is lighter and does not rust, and it’s commonly used today to package sodas and other beverages.
The 19th century saw a canning boom. Companies like Campbell Soup, Heinz, and Borden were selling off cans of food at lightning speed after the end of the economic depression in 1873. In 1903, Alexander Kerr invented the wide-mouth canning jar, for which he would later patent the famous lid – a metal disc and gasket held in place with a ring. Another name in the 19th-century canning industry was the Ball brothers, led by William Charles Ball. The brothers brought up many smaller canneries and led the industry after duplicating Kerr’s invention.
Today, canned foods are still incredibly popular and the technology that surrounds them is still being developed. Commercially canned goods are used by nearly all populations, and by all types of people – from private citizens to militaries to food banks. They’re a beloved (and cheap) dietary staple for many of us, and deserve all the hype they’ll receive this month!